A Michigan college is reportedly requiring their students to download a phone application that is able to track their location and private health data at all times in an effort to protect them against the spread of the coronavirus, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
Albion College, located in Albion, Michigan, is one of the first schools to institute contact tracing. The school is actively working to create what is called a “COVID-bubble” on campus, asking that students remain within the school’s 4.5-mile perimeter for the entirety of the school year. If a student were to leave this perimeter, the app will apparently notify the administration, and could result in the student being temporarily suspended.
The move comes as universities across the country grapple with how to most effectively open their campus while keeping their students as safe as possible. Several schools, including Harvard University, have decided to shut down their campus entirely, while the University of California system “will provide the majority of classes online with a selection of hybrid options,” the Beacon reported. Boston University has elected to resume in-person learning with masks and social distancing guidelines alongside virtual learning supplements for those who do not feel comfortable returning.
Albion’s reopening tactics have sparked pushback from students and parents who are expressing concern about what they view as an invasion of privacy. The father of an Albion student said that he is upset that he must choose between keeping his daughter home from college or signing off on a university-sanctioned “invasion of privacy.”
“The school wants my daughter to sign a form consenting to specimen collection and lab testing,” he told the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. “I have a ton of concern with that…. Why is the state of Michigan’s contact tracing not enough?”
Though students are required to remain on campus, professors and administrators are given permission to leave. The school declined to comment when asked about this odd provision.
Rising senior Andrew Arszulowicz said that he is bothered by the mandatory use of the app and the manner in which students are being treated, saying: “I feel like I am being treated like a five-year-old that cannot be trusted to follow rules.” He added that “if the school believes masks work … why are we not allowed to leave if they work? It does not make sense to me.”
Albion is intending to offer in-person instruction only, and students who refuse to comply with the contact-tracing program will be forced to defer for a semester or a full school year.
Coronavirus testing will be mandatory upon arrival to the campus. It’s unclear how many follow-up tests the university will require throughout the 14-week semester, but the results are to be stored on Albion’s tracking app.
Returning students are also asked to sign a form authorizing the disclosure of their test results to the county, state, or “any other governmental entity as may be required by law”—though the Beacon reported that state and county officials are not collecting information from the app.
In addition to downloading the app, the students must undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine after they move back. They are to give a list of “approved businesses” to frequent, and must fill out an online form five days in advance if they plan to leave for “approved” activities, such as medical appointments, religious obligations, and “significant family obligations.”
According to emails, students who fail to adhere to these guidelines will be locked out of their dorms and other on-campus buildings. Students can be temporarily suspended if they fail to comply with protocol.